An 18-year-old Brazilian citizen was arrested in Bulgaria after evidence surfaced that the teen, who had arrived in Bulgaria from Spain, was attempting to travel to Turkey and then Syria to join the Islamic State and wage jihad in the region.
According to Argentine news outlet Infobae, the Brazilian national—who was not identified by name—was arrested along with two Morrocan nationals apparently en route to Syria. All three had resided for many years in Catalonia, Spain, and authorities noted that the Brazilian teen had converted to Islam while living in Spain, not Brazil.
Lebanon’s Daily Star confirms that they were arrested close to the border with Turkey and were already wanted in Spain for having ties to jihadist groups. Many jihadists travel to Turkey in order to enter Syria illicitly, in order to keep their passport records clean. The three were captured with the help of Interpol, which issued an alert for their capture upon their disappearance from Spain.
The news follows another Islamic State-related story from Brazil this month. Earlier in December, a man was arrested for beheading five people and stabbing and burning another man nearly to death in Brazil. The man, 23-year-old Jhonathan Lopes de Santana, told authorities that his beheadings were inspired by a marathon viewing of Islamic State and Taliban videos online. He did not express jihadist sympathies to authorities, however, instead explaining that he enjoyed killing and was “inspired” by their methods of execution, and he had planned on killing homeless people rather than “taxpayers” to place less of a burden on society.
While Latin America has proven a less successful ground for recruitment for the Islamic State, multiple cases have arisen of Muslims in South America leaving for the Middle East and attempting to join the terrorist group. Last week, a Chilean woman was arrested in Spain for being a member of a large Islamic State recruitment wing dedicated to targeting Muslim women and indoctrinating them into moving to Syria and Iraq and marrying jihadists.
There is evidence that the Islamic State has been targeting Latin American Muslims for months, however. In June, the terrorist group released a video called “The End of Sykes-Picot” starring a Chilean jihadist who called himself Abu Safiyya. In the video, Safiyya walks along the Syria-Iraq border, attempting to showcase that the Islamic State has functionally broken the border down. Abu Safiyya was later identified as Bastían Vázquez, a jihadist who has been making propaganda videos since 2012.